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As Andrew Jackson squares off against incumbent President John Quincy Adams, having won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote in 1824, the split between eastern elitism and western democracy seems more pronounced than ever. David Chase, a young expatriate writer, has been lured from Paris to Boston with a tempting commission to do an "honest" biography of Jackson, although the anti-Jackson sentiments of his patron are no secret. Chase visits Washington to seek sources for his book and to meet Hogwood, his predecessor, whose infirmity has cost him the project Chase now pursues. Sucked into the whirl of life in the capital, befriended by the president's dissolute son Charles, smitten with Hogwood's lovely daughter Emma, Chase can't seem to put pen to paper before his patron comes to town and puts him on the stage to Nashville: Jackson country. There, he meets Old Hickory, whose right-hand man allows him to become part of Jackson's entourage, until a long-kept secret about certain youthful, adulterous indiscretions by the candidate's wife threatens to come to the surface. Since the indiscretions involve the brother of Chase's patron, the writer instantly becomes persona non grata; but, left to his own devices, he tracks down the letters that will undo Jackson—and then has to make the painful decision about whether to use them.
Jackson proves less a figure than a figurehead here, while fictional characters are given the run of the story, which may disappoint historical purists. But the zeitgeist is embodied to perfection, and the result is a truly, and substantially, entertaining tale.
Posted March 5, 2001
I always thought it would be impossible to make the life of Andrew Jackson boring and sluggish, but Mr. Byrd has succeeded. This book is a misguided, boring mess with plastic characters and predictable plot twists. Mr. Byrd is a very talented writer who should have dedicated his efforts to writing a book about Jackson, rather than writing a book about someone who's writing a book about Jackson. There were a couple of great moments in the book, particularly when we read Jackson's own thoughts, but as a reader, I felt too removed from the story to feel connected to it. In short, Mr. Byrd let his plot get in the way of telling a wonderful story. I hope his book on Grant is better.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 24, 2013
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